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Leavitt singing ‘Utah Message’

He sees Games as golden opportunity to promote the state

SHARE Leavitt singing ‘Utah Message’

OK, repeat after me: "Utah has a growing work force, is tech-savvy, is education-minded, is affordable and is safe, clean and livable."

Got it yet? Well, don't worry. You've got a few months to practice it, and even if it doesn't roll off the tongue like "Louie Louie," you'll be hearing it over and over again.

That's because it's Gov. Mike Leavitt's favorite tune, and he's asking others to join in to extol the state's virtues before, during and after the 2002 Winter Games, hoping to catch the ear of companies that might want to expand into the Beehive State.

One of the governor's first renditions was Friday as he told the Board of Business and Economic Development to drive home those points in interviews, advertising and speaking engagements wherever and whenever possible.

Detailed lyrics may vary from time to time, but the governor wants to be sure everyone is singing from the same songbook. The idea is that by the time the Olympics roll around, everyone — including cab drivers — should be able to recite the attributes to people who ask, "What's so great about Utah?"

"We may never have a more profound opportunity to position ourselves in the world — not just in the next 295 days, but also the 295 days after that," Leavitt said.

The governor wants everyone to "be ready, be ordered and be focused" with the message, which could be picked up and reported by perhaps 10,000 media people covering Olympic activities.

"You put all those together and shine the spotlight of the Olympics on the state, that is a powerful message," Leavitt said. "This all ties into defining ourselves economically for the next 100 years."

In addition to having them repeat "The Utah Message" at every opportunity, Leavitt asked the board members to participate in the development of the Utah/Silicon Valley Alliance, serve as ambassadors of the state, help target economic ecosystems that can grow in the state and "evangelize to Utah businesses that they need an Olympic strategy."

The board's ultimate charge, he said, is to make Utah a high-tech investment/employment capital and place where businesses can operate profitably.

The economic ecosystems include industries that have a foothold in the state and could become major. Nine have been identified so far: systems on a chip (think Intel), alternative energy, data centers, electronic games, biotechnology, digital film editing, industrial loan banking, sports and outsourcing services.

Utah can become a prominent player in several of those industries, he said. "The goal is to be No. 1, No. 2 or No. 3 in the world, not just the United States," Leavitt said.

Several of the economic ecosystems will be the focus of Olympic "waves" as the state brings in high rollers from each major industry to talk shop during the Olympics.

The state hopes a few other activities help with economic development. A "Friends of Utah" database will track people with connections to the state. Another is in-state business assistance, providing tickets, facilities and events during the Olympics so that businesses throughout Utah can bring in people from elsewhere to have fun and forge economic ties.

Leavitt acknowledged he gave the board "a boatload" of information, but chairman Dell Loy Hansen said members should try to make sure that not all of the Olympic initiatives for economic development rest with the governor.

"This gives us a very specific mission," Hansen said of Leavitt's points. "It's our duty as a board to step up and support these."

Board member and Kanab Mayor Karen Alvey said the moves could be important to rural Utah. "Right now, I don't think rural Utah understands what it means to them," she said.

Leavitt noted the possibilities an Olympics afford for the state. "The size of this is so immense, it just boggles my mind," he said, "but the opportunity is just unspeakable."

E-mail: bwallace@desnews.com